Prime Minister of Greece emphasizes importance of young people entering politics, working to create societal change
On September 21, 2023, Yale Schwarzman Center buzzed with excitement as people lined up on the marble stairs to the second floor, hoping to catch a glimpse of a world leader at the inaugural event of this year’s Dean’s Dialogue Series—a sequence of visits from prominent leaders in fields such as politics, sciences, and the humanities, in conversation with Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis. A visit from Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic Kyriakos Mitsotakis attracted curious Yale students, faculty, and staff to the round wooden tables in the esteemed Presidents’ Room to break bread over a lovely boxed lunch provided by Yale Hospitality and The Elm, a café in the lower level of the building.
I saw many things which I thought could be changed…
The attentive audience heard perspectives on how the personal and political can be interconnected. Dean Lewis began with general questions on the Prime Minister’s educational background and his decision to pursue a career in politics after having worked in consulting and banking. Prime Minister Mitsotakis earned a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Harvard and later studied international policy at Stanford. Not shying away from speaking about his personal life, Prime Minister Mitsotakis spoke candidly about how in the beginning of his career, he had never planned to work in politics. It was his frustration with Greek politics that eventually inspired him to run for a position in the Hellenic Parliament, and later Prime Minister. He also had the unique advantage of name recognition; his father had served as Prime Minister of Greece in the early nineties.
“I saw many things which I thought could be changed… At some point I told myself, ‘Look, you have a significant advantage going into politics, which is a strong name recognition. Why don’t you give it a go and see if this career suits you?’” Prime Minister Mitsotakis recalled.
If you don’t join politics, someone else will… It is very important to make the case for young people…to have some sort of meaningful engagement in change.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis also encouraged the students and young professionals sitting around him to consider working in politics. He emphasized the importance of young people working to create societal change and connected it to his own experience of going from the private sector to the public sector, while also acknowledging the risks of working in politics.
“You are all highly qualified individuals, and at some point we need to groom the next generation of leaders. If you don’t join politics, someone else will… It is very important to make the case for young people…to have some sort of meaningful engagement in change. I am seriously concerned that the cost-benefit equation of joining politics works against our attempt to attract young people,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said.
He also responded to questions about immigration policy and Greece’s position in the European Union. Dean Lewis then fielded questions from the audience, and students took on the opportunity with great enthusiasm. While some were interested in the Prime Minister’s policies for tourism and work with other European nations, he was also asked to speak more to his personal experiences as a leader. At the conclusion of the question-and-answer session, the audience gave Prime Minister Mitsotakis a round of applause. There was a rush for pictures, selfies, handshakes, and unsurprisingly more questions from this savvy bunch. The Prime Minister mingled with audience members, greeting them with a generous smile.
The event ended when Prime Minister Mitsotakis was whisked away to his next adventure—an address to the general debate of the 77th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations—and students filed down the Schwarzman Center’s marble staircases and out into the world to their next adventure, or to follow his advice and make change.